1. (noun) The principle that the whole can be best understood by examining its parts.

2. (noun) The practice of reducing the complex into fundamental parts for analysis.


  • 1. Reducing the behaviors of men and women into biological expressions of genes and hormones.
  • 2. All of the definitions in this dictionary.

Audio Pronunciation: (re·duc·tion·ism)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: reductionisms
  • Reductionism as defined here as broad term as there are numerous types of reductionism such as biological reductionism, economic reductionism, and social reductionism. Additionally, while reductionism originated in philosophy and the works of Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and René Descartes (1596–1650) among numerous others, the term has become a loaded and often used pejoratively or disparagingly.
  • Holism is the opposite of reductionism.
  • Not to be confused with deductionism.
  • Reductionism is more common in the natural sciences than the social sciences.
  • Most research methodologies require some reductionism in order to operationalize variables for study.
  • Research methods are often viewed as holistic (qualitative) or reductionistic (quantitative).
  • Reductionism is challenged by other theories such as complexity theory, postmodernism, and systems theory.
  • Also called reductivism.
  • Type:
  • A (noun) reductionist uses (adjective) reductionistic logic to (verb) reduce complex systems into smaller parts (adverb) reductionistically or (adverb) reductively.

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